Alexander Lucard: I have a love-hate relationship with White Wolf. They spawned one of the most entertaining tabletop RPG’s of all time in Vampire: The Masquerade, but they did so by raping the corpse of the long dead Mayfair’s games game known as Chill. Then they proceeded to start a trend picked up and magnifyed by Wizards of the Coast with the whole, “OMG! We are going to churn out sourcebooks every month and you need them all because of the level of continuity we are enforcing on the game, but you don’t REALLY need them all because hey, this is an RPG and you can make your own house rules, but if you want to be correct, buy buy buy!” How is that for a run-on sentence? Then White Wolf proceeded to make new editions of the game on a frequent basis, changing clans, powers, and other things around in such a way where the previous editions were pretty much useless. Then of course, White Wolf decided to kill their game world in an attempt to sell boat loads of stuff, which in fact backfired on them and left them with a new universe using some of the concepts and verbiage of V:TM but at a drastically reduced fanbase. White Wolf, in essence, allowed their own greed and arrogance to kill what was at one point the most successful tabletop RPG franchise out there, and turn themselves into a small little publisher who alienated almost all of their fan and income. Still, in the process we got five video games and a TV series, all of which ranged from “Not bad” to “pretty good.”
First up is the odd Action RPG trilogy known as Hunter: The Reckoning This was an oddly published trilogy. The first game was published on the Gamecube and Xbox. The second game was a PS2 exclusive and then the third and final game in the trilogy was an Xbox exclusive. I would love to know what the hell Vivendi Universal was thinking with that sort of publishing. I have one game for each system because of this weirdness! Still, all three games were a lot of fun, were quite dark, and had some of the best continuity I have ever seen throughout a gaming franchise. The three games took place over a ten year span and with each game, you could see the characters age and mature. Controls were solid (although the PS2 exclusive Wayward) was by far the worst game in the series, and all three games were a nice throwback to the hack and slash epics of old like Diablo. The final game in the series, Redeemer is my favorite and if finish off the series with a perfect, albeit it sad, ending that wraps up every loose end in the trilogy. Hell you could skip Wayward and just play the first and third games and you would probably be better off.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption was the first White Wolf based video game, and I still feel it’s the best. You play a Brujah vampire named Christof in this action RPG epic that spans centuries. You level up and gain new abilities exactly as you would in the tabletop game, and the game features an incredible storyline that can change as your humanity waxes and wanes. You can also put together a nice party of vampires and switch between the controlled character at any time. The best part of the game though was the ability to design your own quests and run them as the “Storyteller.” You could then guide a group of friends through your adventure and allow them to design their own vampire from scratch instead of playing just a Brujah as you must in the main story. You could even make obscure clan based vampires like a Cappadocian or a Follower of Set. This was pure fanwankery and it allowed me to play some V:TM games with my friends who had since dispersed across the country.
There there is Bloodlines, aka the game that killed Troika. Bloodlines was a pretty subpar game. It used a first person shooter engine, and managed to alienate both FPS fans and V:TM fans at the same time. I didn’t think the game was awful, but it was pretty mediocre. What annoyed me most is that the game drifted down into softcore porn, where a major subplot of the game was trying to sleep with all the female vampires in the game and getting unlockables for doing so. I shit you not. You actively had to try to seduce and have sex with vampire women in this game and this was the only way to get bonus content. How amazingly stupid is that? In one fell swoop Troika reinforced every single negative stereotype on gamers. Ugh.
Still Bloodlines had an amazing amount of content and a half dozen possible endings. The story was mediocre, combat was boring and the graphics are now outdated, but if you’re a big fan of the V:TM that used to be, Bloodlines is a great example of how both White Wolf and Troika crashed and burned. The funny thing is that Activision is STILL patching this game. Patch 5.3 just came out in May 2008. Ouch.
As Bloodlines and Redemption are PC only, your best bet is tracking down the Hunter series. You can find them for about 5-10 used these days.
Misha: Ahhh… Vampire The Masquerade: Redemption.
My first encounter with the World of Darkness; At the time, I had no idea the tabletop games existed. But I still knew a fine ARPG when I was one, and I delved right into the tale of Christophe, Brujah Promethean. Excellent characterisation and atmospheric settings coupled with the solid storyline and multiple endings (still a relative rarity back then).
Mark B: Sadly, there are only two White Wolf video games that I’ve actually played in V:tM: Redemption and V:tM: Bloodlines. I didn’t spend a lot of time with Redemption, so let’s talk about Bloodlines, along with touching on a few other bits of random trivia.
Bloodlines was, astonishingly enough, an FPS RPG of sorts, focused on your character (who could be of either gender and any of the Camarilla clans, if that makes sense to you) as you simply ran errands for the various vampires around town for one reason or another. The core reason for all of this, of course, is because Bloodlines was a video game, and video games require some sort of direction to give the player something to do, but the whole CONCEPT behind the game was that your character was, as in the tabletop RPG campaigns, a pawn in some greater struggle between forces more powerful than you… only, in this case, you had the option of fighting back as needed.
Personally, I rather liked the game. It didn’t play exceptionally well (it was okay, but would have been better as a console game thanks to the awkward third-person melee combat), but the ambience of the experience was top notch, the graphics were very nice, and the Vampire world was rather well represented, all things considered. Reviews often tended to complain about how guns were inferior to melee weapons in battle, being that this was a game based off of an FPS engine and all, which seems like a logical viewpoint to hold until one realizes that in the World of Darkness that the game takes place in, guns ARE often far less useless in battle against vampires than melee weapons. Those out there who’ve read the books understand this, but for those who don’t, here’s a simple explanation if you played this game and never understood that: first, a bullet has a default damage rating that, generally, isn’t going to be modified unless you get off a particularly good shot (say, four hits of damage), while a melee weapon is going to be modified by the strength of the user, and whatever damage it’s doing is going to be amplified by the user (say, four hits of damage PLUS your own strength). In simple terms: imagine getting shot in the shoulder versus being hit in the shoulder by a sledgehammer which is being swung by Triple H. Got that? Okay. Second, vampires generally can use all sorts of additional effects that can make melee weapons deal ADDITIONAL damage, because they can add to Strength and such, thus making Melee, again, even better. Unless you’re shot in a vital organ, you’re unlikely to die immediately, but if someone were to, say, brandish an entire tree and swing it with enough force to send you flying into the air, it’s fairly likely you’d die on impact.
In other words: this was really a game for fans of Vampire rather than anyone else, which is probably why it sold like shit and the developer, Troika, went out of business after the fact.
Personally, I was more interested in the proposed Werewolf game that never saw the light of day, both because I’m more of a fan of Werewolf: The Apocalypse than Vampire: The Masquerade, and because the game was going to deal with the last living White Howler, which was something that probably sounds like “dork dork dork dork”Â to anyone not readily invested in the product, but to me was a fabulous thing I was looking forward to. Sadly, this never happened. It also bears noting that a company called CCG Workshop had produced an online program that allowed players to play three of White Wolf’s collectible card games from the 90’s online (Rage, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle AKA Jyhad, and Arcadia), which was working until a few months ago, when it just went down entirely. I’m kind of hoping that they find a way to bring that back online, if only because I’d love to rebuild my “King Albrecht”Â deck and play around with the game again, but somehow, I don’t see that happening.